Higgins confident Australia will back our World Cup bid
Ireland could be a step closer to hosting the Rugby World Cup 2023, as it looks likely that the Australian Rugby Union will support the bid.
At a lunch held at the Australian Rugby Union High Performance Grounds in Sydney, President Michael D Higgins said he was confident that Ireland had the ARU's support. "I am not just optimistic," he said. "I am more than optimistic."
The President said the conversations he has been having "on the margins of events" throughout his state visit "have been very positive and very favourable".
Ireland faces tough competition from France and South Africa.
The wining bid will be announced on November 15.
While French President Emmanuel Macron continues to distance himself from the French presentation, Mr Higgins has been extremely supportive of the Irish bid.
"The benefits for Ireland are not simply commercial," he said. "I think it gives the country a lift … and that is it encourages fitness and it encourages the values that are associated with sportsmanship for women and men."
The chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, Bill Pulver, said the board was still in the process of considering all three bids.
But Mr Pulver, who recently attended the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland, spoke extremely highly of Ireland's bid.
"I can tell you I had the great pleasure of being in Ireland a couple of months ago and watched an incredibly successful Women's Rugby World Cup," he said.
"They did an outstanding job and two cracking games between the Australian women's team and the Irish women's team.
"I have had the pleasure of seeing [Ireland's] bid and it is a superb, quality bid ... The reality is that they are up against two pretty tough competitors in France and South Africa so it will be interesting to note the outcome later in November".
Both France and South Africa have previously held the World Cup and both countries have offered financial backing.
To host the World Cup effectively costs €135m and French bid leader Claude Atcher has pledged €165m, while South Africa have guaranteed €180m.
To date, Ireland has not matched this - but for many this does not appear to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Ex-Wallabies hooker Adam Freir said that, speaking as a former player, he would love to see Ireland host the World Cup.
"Being that France had it in 2007, you can assume that Ireland is right there in the box seat," he said.
He added: "I have played against Ireland in Australia and in Ireland and there is something magical about that country that deserves World Cup recognition."